7 Classic New Leader Mistakes

I’ve worked with a lot of new leaders over the years. Even more so – I’ve been one. Numerous times throughout my more than 35 years leadership career I’ve been the new guy. (And, learned lots of lessons the hard way.)

Navigating those early days in a new leadership role is critically important. Much of our future success as leaders is determined by how well we start. It is more difficult to regain momentum for our leadership if it is lost or never begins early.

So experienced leaders know they must start well to end (or continue) well.

Over the last few years, I’ve worked with a lot of pastors who are attempting church revitalization. Some of these experiences have helped shape this post. I really want to speak to the new or “about to begin” leader. If you’re in an existing leadership role there may be something here for you too, but I’m really addressing the earliest days of leadership.

To do so, I want to share some of the more common mistakes I’ve seen new leaders make recently. Again, most I’m referring to our pastors attempting church revitalization. I’m certain many of these would be true when attempting to newly lead any group of people.

Here are 7 classic new leader mistakes:

Assuming people trust you before they really do. New leaders often gain a window of approval. Everyone appears nice to the new person. People will appear excited to have a new leader on board – or at least pretend they are until they learn whether they really are or not. Either way, people in the early days can often make a new leader feel very loved and very popular. While this is indeed a blessing, the leader must understand trust is not the same thing as popularity. Trust is almost never granted simply by arrival or by position. It must be earned over time and experience.

Bashing the past while attempting to get to the future. When you make fun or speak badly of days gone by you often alienate people who were there before you arrived. When you talk about the mistakes of the past – even if they are obvious – you are often talking about the people you are now trying to lead. They may not have even made some of the mistakes themselves, but they were there when they were made. They remained through them and when you diminish the past you’re diminishing them or their loyalty. Don’t forget the past – good or bad – is a part of their personal story.

Assuming nothing good was done before you got there. In reality there were probably lots of good things done in the past. It’s arrogant to think otherwise. They may not be experiencing their best days now – and, that’s probably part of the reason you are there – but, you’ll be better off to help people rediscover some things which were done well than to ignore any good that ever happened before.

Having the “they need me” complex. When the new leader arrives pretending to have all the answers alienates any other good ideas from being shared. People either aren’t motivated to help or they don’t feel they have permission.

Ignoring unwritten rules. Every organization – including the church – has some rules in place which never make it to a piece of paper. They are in the core DNA and are often more powerful that upon which has been formally agreed. They involve things such as how things are done, how people interact with one another, and reaction to change. (These rules can be changed over time, but not as easily if they aren’t understood – even followed – in the process.)

Not understanding the real power structure. Before you can ever effectively implement change you have to learn the people who are actually in a positions of power. It’s not always the people with titles. There are people of influence that – when they speak – people listen.

Not testing the waters before making major change. Seasoned leaders know there must be “meetings before the meeting”. You must find the pulse for change before you spend any capital for change you have. Don’t assume everyone is on board just because it’s a great idea (in your mind) and people like you.

If I could summarize all of these in one word I’d likely say humility captures most of them. A new leader will have to make hard decisions, will often have to defy the way things have always been done, and will need to lead people into unknown, better realities than today. All of that is a part of leading. But, the way a new leader approaches these will likely determine how successful the leader remains – after, the honeymoon period ends.

(And, maybe the subject of another post, but honeymoon periods, in my observation, aren’t lasting as long as they used to last.)

How This Introvert Handles Awkward Situations

One thing middle age has done for me is make me more aware of who I really am and how I respond to life. I can wish I was wired differently, but I am who I am. I can somewhat adapt my personality to my environment, and I try not to use my personality as an excuse for bad behavior, but I am coming to terms with how God made me.

He made me an Introvert.

In recent years, I have come to terms with how the public side of me behaves in an extremely extroverted world. On Sundays, because I know and love our people and have a Kingdom mindset, I’m the extroverted pastor – often the most extroverted person in the building. But, as my Myers Briggs indicates, I’m actually a preferred Introvert. (BTW, it amazes me how many pastors I know who are Introverts.)

To most extroverts entering a crowded room of unknown people is not an awkward setting, but to someone wired like me, entering that same room, when not purposefully “working”, forces me into my introverted shell.

Here’s how I tend to respond when I enter a room full of people I don’t know:

  • I find something to occupy my time. I may play with my phone, doodle on paper, read a book on my Kindle app.
  • I pretend I don’t see people – often I don’t, but I’m likely to pretend just in case.
  • I hide in the lobby until the last possible moment.
  • I find someone I do know and latch on to them.
  • I secretly hope some likable extrovert will approach me and break the ice. (Really, it’s not that I don’t want to talk, it’s just starting the conversation that’s often difficult.)

The fact that an introvert is in crowds of people does not mean he or she is comfortable beginning conversations. It also doesn’t mean the Introvert has no care or concern for the people in the room or that he or she doesn’t like being around people. It doesn’t even mean the introvert has nothing to say, although he or she would probably prefer not to be put on the spot to say it.

It’s that an introvert’s preferred interaction with people is often more of listening than it is of talking and more one-to-one than speaking in large groups at the same time. For some reason, that I don’t understand, an introvert can speak to a large crowd (the larger the better), but when it comes to having group conversation, an introvert is more likely to feel awkward.

Would you be considered an Introvert or an extrovert? Introverts, how do you handle awkward situations?

I’m especially interested in hearing from introverted pastors and other leaders. How do you respond to the crowded room?

7 Suggestions When a Leader Offers Praise

One aspect of leadership is appreciating the people one leads. I must admit, this has to be a discipline for me, because I’m not naturally wired for this. I can be guilty of expecting too much from people. When someone does the extraordinary work it comes easier for me to praise them, but I don’t always feel the need to acknowledge the normal work people do – especially when they are being paid to do it.

I realize, however, that all of us, including me, enjoy hearing we did a good job. Some people are even fueled by it. So, offering praise is a necessary part of a leader’s responsibility. We should all do it whether we are wired to or not.

And, when we do, there are certain things which can help us.

Here are 7 suggestions when a leader offers praise:

Be specific

Tell the person what he or she did well in specific rather than general terms. Make sure they know what they did or are doing well. 

Be honest

Make it genuine. False praise or praise offered only for person gain is seldom appreciated.

Be intentional

Some of us have to discipline to praise. That’s okay. It’s worth it. Don’t assume someone else will do it or that the person receives enough praise. (I try to intentionally praise at least 2 or 3 people per week among staff and volunteers.)

Be timely

People shouldn’t wait long after a job done well to receive praise for it. 

Be creative

Find unique ways to offer praise. Send a handwritten note. Not many do it anymore.  Give an extra day off. Recognize them in front of others. And, of course, don’t forget the personal, face-to-face approach. 

Be unique

Don’t say the same thing everyone else is saying or the same thing to every person. Find the thing or aspect to praise that no one else has noted.

Be helpful

Offer praise which helps the person recognize strengths and encourages them in that area.

It does take intentionality to be an appreciative leader. Our staff would probably tell you I have much work to do. I would have to agree with them. But, I do recognize the value and keep striving to improve.

Monday’s Preparation Brings Friday’s Success

In one of my consulting opportunities I was asked to help someone think strategically. We were looking at this person’s ministry, trying to design a system, which would allow for continual growth and improvement. The ministry had grown rapidly and the leader barely felt she could keep up with her current demands.

She recognized the need to delegate, grow new leaders, and spread out responsibility and ownership, but she couldn’t seem to get past the current demands of details to develop a plan to do so.

Have you ever been there?

While attempting to create a system with her, I think we may have gotten to the root of her problem (and one I’ve had many times personally). She looked at me with complete sincerity and said, “I just don’t have time to prepare…”

Have you ever had that thought?

Do you see the problem with her statement? If you don’t we have a bigger problem on our hands.

Unfortunately, it’s a common misperception of all parts of life. We don’t feel we have time to do the required preparation to do the job right, so we continue in the mediocre success, while drowning in details. The reality, however, is that preparation time is often the most important part of the work.

As corny as it may sound – an inch of preparation is worth a mile of success.

It’s Monday.Take a few minutes to prepare.

It will make the rest of the week much easier and more effective. I start each week with some clear objectives. I want to know what I need to accomplish for the week. These are usually broad and I list them in the form of a checklist. (Sermon, write quarterly newsletter, prepare for staff meeting, prepare for finance meeting, etc.) Once I have this list I break them down by day. Some items, such as my sermon, may require time from multiple days. And, then I start each day with its own checklist.

It’s not complicated, but it is strategic. I find the more deliberate I am to pre-plan my day and week the more productive I feel at the end of the week.

You have time to prepare. I would say you don’t have time to waste not doing so.

4 Examples When Strategy Should Drive a Leader’s Decision

There are times the “gut call” comes in handy for a leader. Leaders often must make quick and decisive decisions. Past experience and instinct can help a leader make the call when an immediate decision is needed.

There are times, however, if a leader wants to be successful, when they must use strategy to make decisions. For defining purposes, A strategic decision doesn’t simply react based on how the leader feels – it brings other people into the decision and asks bigger questions, such as why, how, when, where, who and what. The consequences and ramifications of the decision are highly weighed before a leader makes the call.

Protecting the organization’s future and keeping the trust of people often demands strategic thinking, so all leaders must learn how to think strategically.

Strategic thinking comes naturally for me. I have tons of weaknesses, but thinking in a strategic sense is not one of them. If anything, I’m so strategic that it becomes a weakness.

When a leader isn’t necessarily wired to think strategically, it will need to come through discipline – simply learning how and practicing doing so. Thankfully, not all decisions a leader makes requires using strategy, but when it does the leader needs to practice stopping to ask bigger questions about how this decision will impact the future – again, using questions such as why, how, when, where, who and what.

To help you get started, let me share a few examples of times a leader needs to be strategic with their decision.

Here are four times the leader must think strategically:

The outcome is uncertain

I love risk, but the leader must weigh the risk with the future of the organization in mind. Ultimately the leader has responsibility for the overall success of the organization, so a leader has to make final calls as to whether or not a risk is worth the time, energy and resources, which will be invested in it. This requires strategic thinking. Absent of a direct “word from God” the leader needs to be strategic enough to thoroughly vet the decision and it’s potential future implications. IIt doesn’t mean you don’t take the risk or that you won’t lead into an unknown – that’s what leaders do, but taking time to think strategically can often help eliminate possible disasters.

The outcome impacts others

One flaw in leadership is when the leader thinks only about how he or she views the decision and not how the decision affects other people. The wise leader thinks strategically to determine the people aspect of a decision. This is especially where other people are brought into the strategy part of making the decision. If the outcome has an impact on other people, then other people need to be considered before the decision is made.

The issue is subject to resistance

Most change is subject to resistance, but if a decision is automatically going to involve a battle for acceptance, then a leader must strategically plan the way the decision is introduced and implemented. The more potential outcomes and reactions considered the greater chance of success the change can have.

The issue changes an agreed upon direction

When people get excited about a direction the organization is going and they invest their heart and energy into heading in that direction, they are naturally more resistant to a change in the direction. Good leaders think strategically how this change will be received and how it should be communicated so people transfer enthusiasm for the new direction.

Those are just a few examples. There are certainly many others. I can’t tell you how many times I have seen a decision backfire against a leader who failed to think strategically. They did what they thought was best – they used their gut – but, there were too many variables at play and the decision came back to bite them – metaphorically speaking.

A good rule of thumb for leaders might be to simply discipline themselves to ask a simple question: Do I need to think more strategically before I make this decision? And, if the answer is yes, start asking more questions and involving more people. It will make you a better leader.

Wanting to be Led vs. Wanting to be a Leader

Discerning the difference in leading others

I have studied some psychological theory on personality differences and types. I’m certified to administer Myers-Briggs, but have worked with most of the more popular assessments. I generally agree with the theory behind these type tools. We can categorize certain personalities and traits together to help us understand ourselves and each other better. I am an introvert, for example. That’s not really a question for me anymore, now that I understand the term. It helps me know how I relate to other people on a regular bases.

At the same time, I hold loosely to all these types – believing that ultimately every human is uniquely designed by their Creator. No assessment can ever fully capture who we are as individuals.

But, I think understanding differences – and the broad categoration of them – has often been helpful to me in leading people. As much as I want to individualize my leadership based on the people I’m attempting to lead, it does help to have some broad ways to understand people.

Which brings me to a very broad difference in leading people.

There is a huge difference the way you lead someone who wants to be led and how you lead someone who wants to be a leader.

Huge. It requires a different approach.

The person who wants to be led desires structure. They want to follow the rules. They need someone to tell them how to do what you want done. He or she needs more specifics and more details – and less ambiguities. They tend to stress more during times of uncertainty, but they tend to be more compliant and cause less conflict when the path ahead is clearly defined.

You need to know that and allow it to impact your leadership of them.

The person who wants to be a leader needs space to dream, freedom to explore, and permission to experiment. He or she desires less direction and more encouragement. They need to be given a target of what a win looks like and then left alone to script the way to success. They continually need new challenges. They get bored easily. These people may stir conflict on a team – intentionally or not – because they enjoy testing and pushing the boundaries.

And, you need to know that and allow it to impact your leadership of them.

Again, these are generalizations, but there is nothing wrong with either person. Most teams need both types of team members. I have also found some people have seasons in their life where they float between preferring one or the other. And, of course, with any of these categorations there are huge variances within each of them. Again, everyone is unique.

The key is to know your team and the people you lead. The more we know the people we lead the better they are able to follow.

7 Actions Which Cripple Leaders

I’m constantly thinking how I can help people on our team improve as leaders. Of course, in order for that to happen it means I must constantly be improving as a leader. I realize our team’s potential to get better at leading others is limited to the extent I am willing to become a better leader.

I’ve learned along the way to being a better leader that there are some things which simply keep leaders from being effective. I used the word “cripple” in the title and I don’t think that is too strong a word. The things I’m going to list have all crippled me during seasons of my leadership. There are some actions or characteristics which can simply derail a leader’s potential for success if not identified and addressed.

Understanding these and disciplining ourselves to avoid them can make us better leaders.

Here are 7 actions which can cripple a leader:

Trying to personally handle too much.

Too many changes at one time. Too much on your plate. Refusing to delegate. You can only do so much and when you try to do more you almost always lose efficiency and effectiveness.

I realized this as our church plant was growing quickly. I was trying to meet with people, be active in the community, lead our staff and organizational structure and still preach effectively on Sunday. Something had to give. I started giving some things away and it was amazing how much better my messages became on Sunday – and how much more effective I was in my other responsibilities.

Refusing to rest.

Resting isn’t just a nice quote on a 10 commandments plaque. It’s a command for a reason. Our bodies and minds need time to rejuvenate and recover. Burnout is almost always a result of leaders who fail to say no or are never still.

I have had more than one hard learning curve in this area. Thankfully, I’ve matured and now I can say the more stressful the season the more I discipline myself to exercise and get away from the office. In the busier than normal season I don’t have to work harder, but smarter.

Allowing critics voices to dominate.

You will always have critics. And, you shouldn’t ignore learning from them – even when you don’t agree with them. As leaders, we must remain humble and teachable. But, this doesn’t mean we allow the dominant voice to be those who aren’t even supportive of leadership or where we are leading. In my experience, most of the time there are some people that are critics regardless of who is leader.

I’ll never forget the time this one lady continued to blast me about the “satanic” music our church sang. It wasn’t satanic at all. In fact, we were careful with our lyrics on every song we used in our worship services. The problem was it wasn’t her style. For a while I let this haunt me every Sunday. I was paranoid what others might be saying. But, then I realized there were lots of people who were better engaging in worship because of our style. Plus, there were plenty of other churches which might have more closely aligned with her preference. I couldn’t allow her preference to control what was leading a couple thousand other people in worship every week.

Ignoring the hard decisions.

Leadership isn’t needed if we simply manage status quo. Leadership takes people to unknown places. This requires change – and change can be uncomfortable. Let me correct that – change is always uncomfortable – to someone. In my experience, leadership is often crippled until someone is willing to make the hard decisions. As leaders we must not lead to be popular, but to do right things to achieve the worthy, pre-established visions of our organization.

This has been true so many times as we have had to change or stop programming in an established church. I’ve learned “we’ve always done it this way” is rarely true. When a church is over 100 years old there’s nearly nothing done the same way it was when the church started. They’ve simply done it that way long enough to be comfortable. But, part of our success has been the willingness to move forward – strategically and cautiously – with needed improvements towards our vision. This has included hard decisions involving programming, but even harder decisions regarding people. (And, the people decisions are always the hardest – but, sometimes the ones most needed.)

Controlling everything.

When the leader has to know everything happening in the organization or when they are paranoid because they don’t, we know there is crippled leadership somewhere – either with the leader or those being led. Most leaders don’t want to be surprised on major things, but when they have to be intimately involved in every decision and every detail it usually indicates they don’t trust their team. That’s crippling to any leader – and the team.

I’ve always been pretty good at delegating. It may have come when we bought a small manufacturing company and I was completely in over my head as a leader. I quickly realized if I was going to have any success I had to release control and trust other people – often people more qualified in areas than me. That learning experience has surely helped me as a pastor.

Impatience.

Rome wasn’t built in a day. And, neither are healthy organizations. Leaders must learn to have patience and perseverance, even when those on the team are growing weary. Many times we quit just before the turnaround.

I have sat with so many pastors – especially attempting revitalization – who were short-term at their churches – not because the work was finished, but because they were not patient with how long the process of change was taking. The best leadership happens over seasons and years – not over days and weeks.

Developing a sense of entitlement.

The leader who ever feels they’ve “arrived”, stops learning, or begins to take all the credit for success in the organization has become a very crippled leader. The team will no longer support the leader fully. They will trip on their own ego. It’s simply the quickest way to failure.

I could spend a whole blog post – and probably should – on how I have personally witnessed egos lead to moral, spiritual and professional failure. Chances are, however, you have witnessed this plenty of times also. Pride always goes before the fall.

Those are a few actions or attitudes which I have seen cripple good leadership. It’s always sad to me to see a good leader fail. My prayer is this could be a check for any leaders who may be struggling in any of these areas.

7 Thoughts to the Families of Introverts

Whenever I post about the subject of introversion I hear from fellow introverts. Some of these are apparently even more introverted than me. And, that’s a lot of introversion.

I usually am addressing introversion in leadership, but in talking with a young pastor after one of these posts I discovered there was another issue we needed to address. This particular pastor was having some issues at home with introversion. He had managed to be extroverted for his church, but when he got home, he had nothing left to give. He felt the tension. He wanted to push through it, but he didn’t know how. He didn’t want to talk about his day. He didn’t want to share what he was thinking. He was done. Words spent. Empty.

His wife was growing increasingly impatient with a lack of intimacy in communication, limited social life, and simply feeling left out of part of his life.

Of course, I only heard his side of the story. He knows what he needs to do, but he doesn’t know how to do it.

Her side of the story (according to him) – she doesn’t understand how he can be so introverted – even when it’s with his family.

I get it. I really do.

So, this post is to the families of introverts. There are a few things I’d love to say to you. I hope they are helpful.

Here are 7 words to families of introverts:

We aren’t crazy.

Sometimes you think we are, don’t you? Be honest. When we don’t talk for long periods of time – even when we are with people – you assume we must have a few screws loose somewhere. We probably do – as you possibly do – we are all desperately in need of grace. But introversion isn’t one of the things which make us crazy. We aren’t weird – okay, again, some of us might be, but not just because of introversion. In fact, you may not know this, but there are lots of introverts around. Lots. Mega lots. You may even have overlooked some of us because we aren’t always trying to get your attention. We may appear extroverted in public, often because it’s our job, but there are lots of us who are really introverted.

It isn’t personal. 

When we don’t not talk because we don’t want to communicate with someone. We don’t talk because we are introverted. We need to have something to say. We probably think a lot more than we say. It’s hard not to take it personal though, isn’t it? But, it most likely has little to do with you when we don’t talk to you as much as you wish we would.

We do love you.

This one is huge. The crazy thing about introverts – that I know some have a hard time believing – is that most of us really do love people. A lot. More than you can imagine. In fact, the measure of extroversion or introversion, from what I can tell, has no bearing on the degree of love a person has for others. That’s a whole other side to a person’s personality and character. If one expectation you have of love is talking a lot, you’re going to be disappointed at times. But, this may help to know – for some introverts, one expectation we have of love is giving the people we love time to not have to talk. (Figuring out how to balance those expectations is tough, isn’t it?)

We need time to recharge.

The amount of time is relative to the amount of extroversion we had to do to get to the opportunity for introversion and the degree of introversion we have. But, all of us need that time. We may even crave it. This is especially true after very extroverted events or settings. For my pastor friend I mentioned above, that’s Sunday afternoon following a Sunday morning. (Funny how Sunday afternoons always follow Sunday mornings.)

Preparation helps.

If you give us advance warning, we can often better prepare for conversation. We can gear up for it. I know that may be difficult to grasp for especially extroverted people, especially when it involves people we love so much. Please understand, though, that introversion impacts how we relate to others – not how we feel about them. I love my wife. More than anything. And, she shares my calendars so, thankfully, she knows the times I am more likely to revert to my introversion preferences. I find, however, that my wife and I having a routine time where we interact together at night, is the time I’m ready to dialogue with her best about my day and hers. And, she loves this time. I do too. Seriously. It works better for me because I’m prepared for it – actually looking forward to it – and it works better for her because I actually talk. And, want to.

We don’t have a right to ignore you.

Do I need to repeat that one? I will. We don’t have a right to ignore you. And, my introverted friends can get frustrated with me if they want to, but we don’t. You can expect communication. Relationships are built on communication. We just have to figure out how to make it work with your personality and ours. We can do that, can’t we? And, you can tell them I said it. Get an outside party (such as a counselor) to help you if you need it. We can’t expect people to ignore their personality – and we should work to respect other people’s personalities, but we can expect two people in a healthy relationship to find a balance that allows healthy, intimate conversation – at a level that meets the needs of both in the relationship.

Activity often produces conversation.

This may sound strange unless you’ve experienced it, but as an introvert, I talk more — and am more comfortable doing so — when I am being physically active at the same time. Walking with Cheryl helps us communicate better. Our communication is strengthened when we have an activity we do together regularly. So, we walk often. Almost daily. It’s good for our health and our marriage. Certainly we walk enough so she feels we’ve communicated. What’s an activity you could do with your introverted family member which might produce more (and better) conversation? (Play a board game, go hiking, take a drive, etc.)

Here’s the disclaimer. Not all introverts are alike. Just as not all extraverts are alike. And, there are varying degrees of introversion and extroversion. It’s important not to put people into boxes – and that’s not what I’m trying to do here. Maybe the best follow up to this post is a conversation with your introvert on how the two of you could communicate better. More than anything, as a relationship counselor and pastor, I want to help people better communicate. Sadly, I’ve sat on the outside of dozens of relationships in trouble and communication is almost always one root of the problems in the relationship. This post isn’t counseling – and my intent was a very soft approach, but the issue here is huge for some couples. Don’t be afraid to get help if needed.

Are you an extrovert married to an introvert? Any tips you’ve learned that can help?

A Letter to the Church, from a Pastor

I’m blessed with so many pastor friends. I have the opportunity, through my blog and personal ministry, to interact with hundreds of pastors every year. After hearing many of their concerns, I decided to write a letter to the church. Obviously, I can’t and won’t attempt to speak for every pastor, but this will represent many.

I actually posted this a few years ago, (now edited) after holding on to it for a while. I was concerned it would seem self-serving. I thought some may feel I was ungrateful. Thankfully, I have good support around me. I’m in a good situation and I have years of experience navigating (sometimes better than others) work and home life, so this is really designed to speak for other pastors. Again, God has given me abundant support in ministry, but I feel the weight of many pastors and ministers – maybe especially those who serve as the only staff member in the church.

So, this is on behalf of some of my pastor friends.

Dear church,

I want to be honest with you on behalf of many pastors I know. You would want me to be honest, right?

It’s sometimes hard to know who to trust.

Honestly, that’s hard to say, because we are a church and, if there is any place we can trust people, it should be in the church. But, many pastors I know have been burned so many times by trusting people. It seems people love to repeat the pastor. They love to share things they know about the pastor – some of which was shared in confidence or not shared with them at all. I know so many pastors who simply don’t trust anyone. They keep their private life so removed from the church and never really let anyone get to know them. It’s not wise. It’s certainly not the way the church should function, but it often feels safer. Be the one your pastor can trust – every time.

We love you, but we love our family too.

Would you help us protect our family time? We like having a night at home. We want days occasionally which are completely ours, to do what we want, with no church responsibilities. No church texts, no church calls, no church emails, no church visits. I know, sounds selfish right? And, we know there are emergencies, and we want to be there for them. But, if your need can wait until the next morning we are in the office, that gives us an opportunity to rest – and be better prepared when an emergency does come. And, do we really have to be at every function of the church? Aren’t there some things others could handle for us? And – please understand this is hard to ask – but since these are my friends I’m asking for, would you consider keeping our kids some night so we could have a night just for the two of us?

Sometimes people make leading very hard.

Like someone said, “Leadership would be easy if not for the people.” We know every decision we make is unpopular with someone. Most pastors wish they could do everything everyone wanted them do. But, we simply can’t. We know we are called to lead the church as God leads us – not to be popular. But, sometimes, we are made to feel very uncomfortable for not doing what people want us to do. And, many pastors struggle with a bent towards people-pleasing. That may make us seem shallow, but it’s true. You can help by being a supporter of your pastor. You don’t have to always agree, but the way you disagree says a lot about your support.

We need a few people who are “in it” for Jesus and others, more than for themselves.

When we find those people – wow – it makes our day. We feel like we are accomplishing something. Those people fuel us for ministry. They are the ones who keep us going on days we are ready to quit! Oh, how we need people who are committed for all the right reasons! Can you be one of those?

We have to wear many hats.

And, that’s okay. It comes with the job, but some things we are asked to do we simply aren’t skilled to do. You thought seminary taught us everything, didn’t you? No, in fact, we feel very inadequate at much of the things required of us. We need your help, but sometimes it’s hard to ask, because we don’t know who to trust – remember? It’s a gentle giant who comes along to support us expecting nothing in return. An older, more mature person who simply wants to bless a younger pastor – that’s gold to us. Someone who simply says, “Pastor, let me know what you need and I’ll do my best” – wow! Go ahead, make my day!

We want you to love us in spite of our flaws.

That makes sense to us, because you want us to love you that way, but sometimes we feel you love us only as long as we are “performing” as people would have us perform. (Wow, did I just say that?) It has sometimes been said a pastor is only as good as their last good sermon. We feel the pressure to be perfect sometimes – yet, we know the temptation people face we face. Pastors are flawed humans too! And, sometimes the enemy works extra hard on us – loving when a pastor fails. Those who pray for us regularly – and really do – those are some of our heroes in the faith.

We feel so responsible – for everything.

Church growth. Church discipline. Church health. Church budget. Church strategic planning. And, people’s spiritual growth and often their personal happiness. We know ultimately Jesus is in charge of all things, but we feel the weight of our role to see that each of these are completed well in the church. That’s a lot of self-induced pressure, isn’t it? But, I thought you’d like to know so you can pray for us better. (Thanks for doing that.)

Lastly, I would remind you – we love you. We really do. I don’t know any pastors who don’t really love people. I know no pastor is perfect, and some know how to show love better than others, but with the calling comes a calling to love people. It’s easier some days than others, but we truly do love you. We consider it a high honor, a great privilege and a tremendous responsibility to have the role in the church we have. Thanks for loving us back!

Sincerely,

Pastor

Thanks pastors, for all you do. A couple years ago my then 93 year-old mentor pastor said it is harder today than ever in his ministry to pastor a church – and he had just taken another interim pastorate. The pressures are great. People are distracted by many things. The church is often not the revered and loved place in our communities it used to be.

Personally, I’m thankful for good leadership and staff around me at each of the churches where I’ve served, but my heart goes out to the pastor who doesn’t feel the support of the church and is the only staff member. Remember, you are doing noble work and you are part of something bigger than today, you and your church! The local church – the body of Christ – is still in God’s plan today and nothing will overcome it. Praying for you today!